C'Était Ici

by: Yann Tiersen

The double-disc set C'Était Ici presents Yann Tiersen live in concert, performing highlights from his five studio albums and his score for the French film Amélie, the work for which he may be most widely known. While "La Valse d'Amélie" and "L'Autre Valse d'Amélie" sound just as sparkling and magical here as they did in the movie and on its soundtrack, and songs such as "C'Était Ici" and "Rue des Cascades" follow suit, the album gives equal time to the other sides of Tiersen's music. The pieces with vocals are particularly striking, especially "La Rupture," a winding epic that is as eerie as it is beautiful. The mellow, romantic "La Terrasse," meanwhile, highlights the undercurrents of French pop and rock that influence his work. Hints of French folk can be heard on tracks like "Déjà Loin" and the modern-day gypsy fiddling of "Sur le Fil," emphasizing the fact that while Tiersen blends elements of classical, pop, rock, and folk into his music, all of it is quintessentially French. The live format especially suits some of his more energetic songs, such as "Le Jour d'Avant" and "Le Banquet," both of which feature explosive, rock-oriented drumming. Then again, the beautifully intimate renditions of Serge Gainsbourg's "La Noyée" and Tiersen's own "Le Moulin" are just as powerful in a quiet way. The second disc digs deeper into Tiersen's discography, offering more of his longer, more involved compositions such as the swooning "Bagatelle," a collaboration with Dominique Ané, and the 12-minute "Fevrier," which conjures images of the grayest, longest-seeming month with ticking percussion and jittery, atonal pianos, guitars, and brass. Other highlights include the dreamy "Le Méridien" and "La Parade," which feature appropriately somnolent vocals from Lisa Germano, another of Tiersen's frequent collaborators, and the gorgeous "Monochrome," a paradoxically vivid description of day-to-day tedium sung by Ané. C'Était Ici functions almost like a greatest-hits collection of Tiersen's work: a welcome reminder for fans of his diverse talent, and an introduction to the rest of his work for those charmed by Amélie. While most two-hour live albums don't necessarily make a good introduction to an artist's work, C'Était Ici is a very happy exception to that rule. ~ Heather Phares

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